Alec Presley, Kent State post 5

As I said last week, I managed to get the opportunity to email John Filo, the photographer who took my picture. After getting over just how awesome it was to be talking to the man who took one of the most iconic photos of all time, I asked him three questions. Using the short version they were

  1. Why did some publications use other pictures taken by you, besides the iconic one?
  2. Where was the photo first used and where was it published?
  3. What was the reaction you received personally?

His responses would fill in a lot of gaps in my research.

His answer for my first question shocked me. The article of Life I talked about two weeks ago used photos from other photographers besides Filo. In retrospect it helps explains why it was so hard to find a credit for anyone. Filo did contribute one photo, and so did another photographer on campus, but a majority of the photos used were taken by Howard Ruffner, who was the Kent State Yearbook editor at the time of the shooting. Filo also explained how a lot of newspapers and publications each hired their own photographer to cover the event, and that he didn’t get hired because he was out of town for the weekend. This explains my biggest question. If a publication hired a guy to take photos, they’re going to use those photos. Of course in the articles from 1971 that were written after the Pulitzer, then it only makes sense for them to use the iconic pic.

He answered my second question by explaining how went to his hometown paper and published all of his photos but one on the Associated Press. According to Filo he was in a rush to publish the pictures because initial reports were saying that two guardsmen and two students were killed.

 He answered my third question by talking about how he received offers from T-shirt companies, and poster companies, and how he received hate mail and calls, the latter one forcing him to turn his phone off at night.


One thought on “Alec Presley, Kent State post 5

  1. Alec,

    Really well done. Have you thought about trying to contact Mary Ann Vecchio? If this is something you’d be interested in doing, let me know. I can reach out to the Kent State archivist and see if we can get a hold of her. She has spoken publicly about the events of May 4, 1970 so I don’t think she’d be put off by an email asking her about her thoughts on the photo. What do you think?

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